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CAD/CAM workstation build help

  1. May 15, 2011 #1
    I'm finally biting the bullet and have decided to build a bit of an overkill workstation.
    Goals: reduce down time for rendering and FEA calculations.

    I spent some time trying to research the right components and wow did that give me a bit of a headache! A lot seems to be geared towards the gaming industry which is very large but not ideal for SW, catia, mathlab, mathematica etc...

    here's what I've been able to figure so far and if it's not correct please let me know. I have a std ATX form case from my current station I'd like to retain as it has a nice liquid cooling setup for the CPU.

    MOBO: P8P67 WS Revolution REV 3.0
    Socket: 1155 - figured best option to stay current in the next couple yrs
    CPU: i7 2600K -seems to be a good choice, not sure if the integrated graphics hurts/helps?
    video: Nvidia quadro 4000 - mid/high end and middle road in cost - overkill? some reviews state low usage for cad programs but no reason why.

    The quadro video card is a suggested one for SW's but I'm not clear on how it should match up to the CPU or MOBO.

    as for HD and power supply, not sure. I figure 1000W is a good choice but reviews are sketchy at that level for PS mfgs.

    HD setup? that's one that has got me scratching my head, raid 0, 1, 5, 10 ???? I get the concept but fail to see the advantage over a single disk - help on that one.

    I figure it'll run 2-3k to set up a good station just dedicated to engineering and modeling.

    If I'm missing anything let me know.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 17, 2011 #2
    There's no need to get a power supply that powerful, even with overclocking/water cooling, with only one graphics card the PC won't use more than a few hundred watts. Pick up a high quality, efficient one in the 500W range - look at Seasonic and Enermax.

    For the motherboard, you might want to consider getting a Z68 board, as it offers accelerated video encoding and SSD caching. Have a read of this article... Maybe the P8Z68 Deluxe? Though if you're not going to be using the quicksync technology then a P67 board would be fine. The integrated graphics itself is redundant, but the other stuff that comes with it is useful, and the 2600k is a great CPU. The only reason to spend more is if you want dual CPUs or a server-grade part, but there's not much point in a standard workstation.

    For the graphics card, the main thing to consider is software/driver support. Things like GPU-accelerated rendering and GPU compute in general can make a big difference, and are likely to be even more important in the future. Support can be pretty limited though, so if a graphics card has been verified for your particular software then it's a definite advantage... sometimes even customer service for software is limited unless you're running validated hardware. That said, a 'gaming' graphics card would be much cheaper and perform similarly a lot of the time. Any modern graphics card (with a PCI-e interface) will be compatible with the mobo/cpu, though it may need extra power connectors so check the power supply.

    Finally, the hard drives: the main benefits of RAID are speed and redundancy. With data striped across two disks, you can get up to, though generally less than, twice the read/write performance since operations can be carried out in parallel (RAID 0, not really RAID at all since there's no redundancy). With data mirrored across two disks (RAID 1) you're protected from data loss if one fails. 5 and 10 offer a combination of both benefits with more disks, at the cost of increased complexity. I would avoid RAID 0 on a workstation, as it actually increases the risk of losing data (all the data is lost if one disk fails), but RAID 5 or 10 could be beneficial if you're handling large amounts of data. Remember that having redundant disks isn't an alternative to backing up, as data can still be lost through user/software error. With your budget, it's also definitely worth considering an SSD. Application loading and anything that involves random access is greatly improved; makes a big difference to how quick everything feels too... In my opinion, the best option for drives is an SSD for the OS/applications (doesn't need to be huge), maybe an array of fast drives for the data you're working on, and a large capacity drive/array (or NAS) for backups.

    Oh, and you'll need some RAM. Go for 4GB sticks to allow for upgrades, 8GB seems a decent amount at the moment but it depends on what you're doing. There's little benefit to getting memory any faster than 1600mhz (or even 1333, to be honest). Crucial's standard desktop memory is good.
  4. May 17, 2011 #3
    Desktop Engineering magazine reviews workstation-level PCs each month. You might look over some of the specs and test results to get ideas for what you might want.

    This is a chart comparing recent test results: http://www.deskeng.com/pics/0511/boxx.pdf
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